US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, has issued a warning about potential delays or cancellations for airlines starting July 1st if passenger jets have not upgraded their altimeters to deal with 5G interference. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stated that the radio wave emitters used by passenger jets to measure their distance from the ground could be disrupted by 5G C-band signals, which could impact low-visibility landings.

The Upgrades

Although airlines are not required to have the new equipment in place until February 2024, passenger jets that have not been certified for operation around C-band 5G signals by the start of July will not be permitted to land in certain low-visibility situations. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, more than 80 percent of the US domestic airline fleet is adequately prepared with the required upgrades. However, approximately 65 percent of international jets still require the necessary alterations.

Impact on Airlines

The International Air Transport Association has stated that carriers will do their best to avoid disruptions and that they are selecting aircraft with the required altimeters for flights to the US. Air India has confirmed that all its planes are equipped with the necessary upgrades. Although the article suggests that most airlines anticipate little-to-no impact, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue may experience delays as 190 and 17 planes, respectively, still require upgrades.

The Airlines for America trade association has attributed the delay to global supply chain issues. While the airlines have expressed confidence that their fleets will be fully upgraded by July 1st, the FAA initially expressed its concerns about 5G C-band interference with aviation gear, which led to a disagreement over where carriers could turn on their towers and with how much signal power. The full expansion of the C-band was initially paused until January 2022, but it saw further delays – first to July 5th, 2022, and then to July 1st of this year.

As of now, only flights landing in low-visibility circumstances aboard planes that have not had the 5G-interference-busting equipment installed could potentially face setbacks. According to a JetBlue spokesperson, there could be “limited impact” in Boston on low-visibility days beginning on July 1st.


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